Program Evaluation

What it is

A “program,” in the most basic sense of the word, is a planned series of events designed to fulfill a specific purpose or objective. A graduate degree program is an obvious example, but millions of other “programs” are constantly created and delivered in the wider world: for example, the many social service programs that are offered by nonprofits and government agencies. Programs increasingly need to be evaluated in order to assess how well they are meeting their objectives. Program evaluation, then, is a form of applied research that measures the extent to which a given program is successful in meeting its stated objectives.

Starting points

Program evaluation experience is available in entry-level Analyst or Researcher positions in many kinds of organization, from nonprofits to universities to government agencies to consultancies serving those various program-creating entities.


From an analyst or researcher position, one can progress towards greater responsibility within the organization, move to a larger organization, move into research administration, or start a freelance practice, given enough experience and relationships.


If you are using qualitative and/or quantitative research methods on human subjects, you are well-positioned to enter this career.

Personality and outlook

People who do well in program evaluation tend to enjoy research, be interested in research methods and feel positive about applying research methods in non-academic settings. All temperaments can be happy in this field.


Get involved in research projects and service assignments that allow you to evaluate programs or participate in their evaluation. Sniff around on campus to find which programs are being evaluated and by whom; offer to help as a volunteer. Join the professional association for evaluators and attend meetings. Find a consultancy that does program evaluation and informational interview their evaluators; offer to help as an intern.

Real Life Examples